In writing to the twelve tribes – the Jewish believers in Christ, who have been scattered throughout the nations – the apostle James begins his letter by telling believers that they should consider it fortunate, or pure joy, whenever they face trials of any kind (James 1:2). The biggest trials that those believers faced were poverty and persecution. It is likely that those trials tested the faith of those early believers and James was referring to those trials in his letter. But James wrote “many trials” or “all kinds of trials,” which would include some of the things that believers face today, such as sickness, the loss of loved ones, children who rebel, the loss of a job, anything that could cause a believer to lose faith.
So, James is saying that no matter what kind of trials we are facing, big or small, we should consider ourselves fortunate and take joy in those trials. But, how can we do that? How can we be joyful when faced with a serious illness, how can we consider ourselves fortunate when faced with the loss of a job? The answer starts with understanding that when we hold on to our faith in the midst of trials, it builds in us the ability to endure, to persevere (James 1:3). And the result of our endurance or perseverance is that we become mature and complete as believers (James 1:4). In other words, God is able to use our trials to help us to grow into believers whose faith is not lacking, believers who lean into God and believe that He will see us through any trials that we face. We become strong, unshakable believers.
For us as believers, knowing that God is able to help build such strong faith in us through the trials we face is reason enough to be joyful. But in James 1:12, we are given another reason to rejoice in trials. In that verse, James tells us that, when we persevere through any trials we face, when we stand through the testing of our faith, then we are blessed. How are we blessed? We will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those of us who love Him. That crown is the eternal life that faith in Jesus Christ brings. In Revelation 2:10 (NET), speaking to the believers in Smyrna who were facing poverty and persecution, Jesus made a promise that He also makes to us, when He said, “Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself.” That is a promise that merits rejoicing!